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Matt Stajan goal with 1:34 left lifts Leafs past Canadiens 3-2

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

MONTREAL - The sound of puck hitting metal at the back of the Montreal Canadiens net was music to Matt Stajan's ears.

The Toronto winger drilled a shot that went off defenceman Mark Streit's stick and beat Cristobal Huet with 1:34 left to play as the Maple Leafs earned a hard-fought 3-2 NHL victory over rival Montreal on Saturday night.

"I just wanted to get a shot on the net and go for a line change," said Stajan after his fourth of the season. "Then I heard it hit the metal bar and the light went on.

"You can't describe the feeling you get when you hear that sound."

Tomas Kaberle and Mats Sundin also scored for Toronto (6-6-3), which was kept in the game by a big effort from goaltender Vesa Toskala, who made major stops on Tomas Plekanec, Mathieu Dandenault and Guillaume Latendresse with the score still tied in a tense third period.

Toronto ended a two-game losing run.

Mike Komisarek and Chris Higgins scored for Montreal (7-3-3), which lost in regulation time for the first time in seven games.

"The difference in this game was Toskala," said Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau, whose team outshot the Leafs 34-31 in an end-to-end game. "We had excellent chances and didn't score."

But while Toskala shone, Huet had had trouble with tips and bounces.

"They got a lucky bounce on one goal (by Sundin), but I think Cristobal would like to have the others back," added Carbonneau.

Indeed he would - at least Stajan's winner.

"You try to see the puck off the stick, but it slowed down and caught me off guard and got through me," Huet said. "It definitely was not a great goal."

It was Toronto's second win in as many games this season over their oldest rival, after their 4-3 overtime win Oct. 6 at the Air Canada Centre. Last season, Toronto went 0-3-1 in Montreal.

As usual with Montreal-Toronto match-ups, the crowd was raucous, with the many fans in Leafs blue-and-white sending up competing chants for their team against the locals.

Kaberle and Pavel Kubina logged 27:02 and 28:36 minutes of ice time respectively as the Leafs battled fatigue in their second game in as many nights after their 3-2 loss in New Jersey a day earlier.

But they came out flying and by the 10-minute mark of the first period, held a 1-0 lead and a 10-1 shots advantage.

Dandenault was called for tripping Sundin 44 seconds into the game and 34 seconds later, Kaberle took a harmless looking swipe at the puck from the left point and saw it beat Huet to the glove side.

The Canadiens got back in the game late in the period and Komisarek tied it on a point shot that went through a cluster of players in front of Toskala and may have hit Alexei Ponikarsovsky before going into the net.

The second period was the reverse, as Sundin was sent off early and, after Boyd Devereaux joined him in the box, Higgins banged in Andrei Markov's rebound with the two-man advantage at 2:33.

But Sundin got it back at 6:04 as he threw the puck in front and saw his eighth of the season go in off Dandenault's skate.

Coach Paul Maurice joined in the applause for Toskala, who made his sixth straight start and put together back-to-back strong efforts in New Jersey and Montreal.

"We're very happy with how he played," said Maurice. "We played two good road games this weekend but unfortunately, we only got two points," said Toskala. "But I like how we played. I felt pretty good. I got a little lucky a couple of times. They made some cross-ice passes and I was able to get to them."

The Canadiens dropped struggling winger Michael Ryder to the fourth line in the third period and promoted Tom Kostopoulos to the first, but Carbonneau said Ryder skated harder and played better after the move.

Carbonneau used a checking combination of Dandenault, Steve Begin and Bryan Smolinski against Sundin's line and it seemed to work. The opposing trios scored a goal each.

The Leafs conintue their four-game road trip Tuesday in Ottawa and Friday night in Buffalo. Montreal ends its four-game homestand Monday night against the Sabres.

Notes: Wade Belak dressed and Bates Battaglia was a healthy scratch for Toronto. ... Bryan McCabe missed a fifth game with a groin injury and Darcy Tucker (knee) missed a sixth game. ... Montreal scratched Mikhail Grabovsky while Francis Bouillon (shoulder) and Garth Murray (ankle) remain sidelined.


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